Fun control

May 26, 1999 at 12:00 am

We’re bundling up our Red Wings flags and finally throwing the Yzerman jerseys into the washer, and the Lizard of Fun is looking uncharacteristically dejected. "What am I gonna do?" it asks, stuffing a "Three-peat!" banner into the trash. "No playoffs to watch. I’ve finally seen Phantom Menace. And all that’s left of ‘Melrose Place’ is the thrill of bidding for vials of swimming pool water on’s auction site. This is going to be a dull summer indeed."

"You could always watch Heathers again," I suggest, popping the worn-out cassette into the video player. "Nothing like a good dose of teen anxiety and high-powered explosives to put things in perspective."

The Lizard nods enthusiastically, and sits down with a bowl of popcorn. "I just love the part where Christian Slater’s character says the public will devour any horror the American teenager inflicts on itself," it says, chuckling. "And the part where he shoots the two jocks who are bugging him in the cafeteria, but he’s using blanks so they just get freaked out. Whooo! Talk about revenge!"

The Lizard giggles so much, it leans on the remote and the video stops. "Damn, back to reality … Oh, never mind — I think the video came back."

But it’s not the video. The TV news is playing yet another story about high school violence, this time originating in a Georgia suburb. "Talk about life imitating art," I say, glumly. "If Heathers was a new movie, it would’ve already been banned."

"Naah," says the Lizard. "It’s too far-fetched."

Besides, most of the kids involved in the six major school shooting incidents in the past two years were barely out of kindergarten in 1989 when Heathers was released.

"What’s your damage?" says the Lizard. "It’s a brilliant film. It’s original. It’s different. It’s very."

But after Heathers, everyone else is just a wannabe. In the recent kids-plus-guns-plus-bombs incidents, teenagers have basically imitated the shootings they’ve seen on TV, and then TV covers the new shootings, and then kids see more stuff to imitate, and then it becomes one of those "as seen on TV" endorsements that comes with really good ideas such as Chia Pets.

"Shush," says the Lizard, skipping between CNN and the comedy network. Suddenly, it looks alarmed. "Hey, what’s all this about fun control?"

"That’s gun control. The House speaker, Dennis Hastert, said the government needs to make it harder for kids to get guns."

"There’s the understatement of the century. Of course kids shouldn’t have access to guns. They might hurt someone. But fun controls, well, that’s unconstitutional!"

"Have you been paying attention at all?" I ask, but it’s too late. The Lizard has already started on one of its rants.

"If they’re going to limit access to fun, think what’s going to happen! No Marilyn Manson, no Doom video games, no Internet … Think about it: Summer’s coming up, and there’s going to be nothing to do but watch TV. No wonder kids are going crazy. The only channel that isn’t going to be playing reruns is the Home Shopping Channel!"

Having whipped itself into a green-lathered frenzy, the Lizard collapses on the sofa in front of the television.

"When fun is outlawed, only outlaws will have fun," it declares. "I blame the media. Present company excepted, of course."

"The media doesn’t give kids guns," I point out. "It would be bad for ratings."

"That’s right," says the Lizard, adjusting its sarcasm flow to high. "Besides, if kids had access to guns anytime, whenever they wanted them, they might get blasé about them. They’d get bored. Instead of going to shooting ranges and plotting methods of mass destruction, they’d start playing chess or reading books, which we all know makes for snooze-a-rama television footage."

"So, by that logic, I suppose that having free and unrestricted access to television would make kids bored with TV?" I ask.

The Lizard shoots me its patented you-really-don’t-get-out-much-do-you look.

"Anyway," I say, "laws keeping kids from getting guns aren’t going to help. You ever see how fast a kid can get the childproof cap off a bottle of Tylenol? If the guns are there, kids will get them."

"So, what do you suggest?"

"I think kids are just too stressed out. Obviously, if high school is still like it was when I was a student, and all they have for fun is TV, it’s no wonder they’re likely to go out and start rampaging."

"That’s true," says the Lizard. "Besides, there’s no point in watching TV anymore, anyway, since ‘Homicide: Life on the Street’ went off the air. I guess they could always take up croquet, like they play in Heathers ..."

The Lizard looks troubled.

"Isn’t croquet enough fun, either?" I ask.

"No," it says. "The case of fresh octopi I bought last week, before the game. I think I left them in the trunk of the car. Do you think they’re getting hungry?"